Would the Yankees be better off facing Texas or Tampa Bay for the American League pennant?
Tampa Bay, which won 10 of 18 games in the regular season, had a team batting average of .247 this season. But the Rays have power with Carlos Pena (28 HRs), Evan Longoria (22), Carl Crawford (19) and B.J. Upton (18). They have scrappy players beyond that and always seem to mount comebacks. David Price is the ace, but he would not be available until Game 3.
Texas, which split eight game with the Yankees, led the league in hitting with a .276 average and has home run power from Josh Hamilton (32), Vladimir Guerrero (29), Nelson Cruz (22) and Michael Young (21). Ace Cliff Lee, who starts against Price Tuesday in the Division Series final, also would not face the Yankees until Game 3.
The heavy hitters on Texas appear more dangerous than the Rays (even with the Rays just two homers behind with a total of 160) and the Rangers swept three games against the Yankees in Texas without the ailing Hamilton. Lee could be automatic against the Yankees, home or away. The Yankees did win three games at Yankee Stadium.
The Rays would be coming off a tremendous high by winning three straight elimination games in the ALDS and then staying a home to face the Yankees on Friday and Saturday.
The Rays played the Yankees tough in Yankee Stadium, as proven by last month's split of a crucial four-game series. The Yanks had won the first two and home field advantage for postseason was in their grasp but Tampa Bay captured the last two. Yankee Stadium does not present an intimidation factor.
The path to the World Series does not figure to be nearly as easy as sweeping the Twins might have suggested. It seems playing Texas affords the better opportunity.